Flash models and battery life


davey

Link Posted 19/09/2012 - 20:12
Hi all, wondering if I could call on your experience?

I've been shooting gigs for a few years. Mainly bigger venues (Hammy-O, Albert Hall, Brixton etc) where flash isn't permitted, but occasionally I shoot in smaller venues such as clubs or pubs as favours to friends.

I usually work on the stage or from the pit, so close or very close to the performer.

I've been asked to shoot two local events next month, both are going to be poorly lit and both are as favours to the performers / organisers - so I'd be able to use flash and would probably need it.

So, now might be the time to spend some money. I use a K-r, I prefer to work fully manual, and most of the time I use a Sigma 50-150 F2.8 as I like to go in very close and its my only decent quality lens! I've never used flash!

I'm on a budget and don't want to spend more than 200. Best contenders so far are the Metz 58 AF1 and the Sigma EF610 DG Super. I prefer the Metz for the better reviews on its user interface - as I won't be using flash often I don't suppose its controls will ever become second nature, so an easier interface seems a good idea. I also like these flashes as they are powerful and have a high feature count - I'd rather spend more and waste features then spend less and find I'm missing the features I really need!

So, firstly, I'd appreciate any opinions from owners of these flashes, or any suggestions for alternatives. Thanks.

The second question I have is on battery life. I quite expect to use black Eneloops and already have 16 of them. I was a bit worried about a review of the Metz that suggested 50 shots on eneloops and the batteries would be well on the way to being drained. I do tend to take a lot of pics and can't imagine its going to be easy to be switching batteries too often when trying to hide behind the PA speakers on a stage! So, any recommendation on a flash that will keep going for a while between sets of batteries?

Wow, sorry - long message! Thanks for reading and thanks in advance for your wisdom!

Cheers for now, davey.

thegreenman

Link Posted 19/09/2012 - 20:42
have you thought about going manual with the flash as well. Not too difficult if the flash to subject distance stays the same (roughly). For 200 you should be able to find something like this
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Metz-mecablitz-60-CT-4-Flash-Gun-with-Ni-cad-Power-Pac...

Not suggesting that one is suitable, just might help you look.

Regards

Russell

MattMatic

Link Posted 19/09/2012 - 20:51
Personally I never use flash at events like that - generally kills the atmosphere (unless it's carefully balanced). I go with bright lenses, wider apertures, fully manual, and RAW (so I can claw back the shadows).

But... if you did, you'll probably need a monster of a flash to fill a venue (unless you're shooting at higher ISOs).

I do have a huge Metz 50MZ5 hammer head (with NiMH) that's looking for a home. It really is a monster with a GN of 70 and a weight to match

Matt
http://www.mattmatic.co.uk
(For gallery, tips and links)

davidstorm

Link Posted 19/09/2012 - 21:43
I'm not sure if this is a little off topic, but was mentioned in your post. I find the black eneloops very disappointing - they don't seem to last as long as the white ones for some reason!

White eneloops in my flashguns seem to last forever.

If you are going to use flash, my thoughts would be to dial it down as far as you can without under-exposing and shoot a slowish shutter speed with slow synch set. This way you'll retain some detail from the exposure and it won't be bleached out. The only problem is you might struggle with the movement of the band. Cabstar is the one to give you the best advice on this as he is the master of shooting live bands.

Regards
David
Flickr

Nicola's Apartments, Kassiopi, Corfu

Some cameras, some lenses, some bits 'n' bobs

davey

Link Posted 20/09/2012 - 00:51
Wow, thanks very much for the responses and advice - much appreciated!

Russel - thanks for the tip. Yes, I like manual and have never used any automatic settings on my camera. If I can get used to it then I would prefer to go manual on the flash too. But I think its probably best I get a flash that will also do the automatic stuff just in case I don't get on with it or can't react fast enough to changes on the stage. The one on ebay looks fab... but too big for me - most of my work is in London and I use public transport to get there. I think I need something smaller.

Matt - I agree entirely - I don't like flash. Part because its distracting for the performer and audience and part because I generally don't like lots of the results I've seen. But I suspect good well balanced flash use will generate good shots while poor flash use will probably give poor shots. My lens is pretty fast (but depth of field becomes a problem so I usually stop down a bit). I always go manual and RAW for exactly the reasons you suggest. I'm rather hoping that in a small venue with low ceiling I can bounce a flash for an effective fill, or use direct with a lower power. I always shoot higher ISO - I've got a pretty nasty tremor so have to use fast shutter speeds - I rarely get to shoot as slow as 800 or 1600 and its more often 3200 or 6400! At the big events there's usually enough light to get some results. At the smaller venues that's not always the case and I hate to come away with nothing. Thats a big part of why I'd like to try a flash - so I can get some sort of results on occasions when otherwise I'll get nothing. I think its going to be a steep learning curve to get the best out of it though.

David - I've not tried white eneloops. They aren't much lower capacity than the black ones and I believe they hold their charge for longer. Next time I renew a set I'll try a set of whites - it'll be interesting to compare and it'll save a few quid too. Good point - with flash I might get away with a slower shutter speed than I can usually manage. Want to try that! And yes - I've admired Cabstar's work for a long time!

Thanks again for all your suggestions. Just in case anyone's interested, here's what I've been doing to date - all band stuff from the last few years:
link

Cheers, davey.

thegreenman

Link Posted 20/09/2012 - 13:49
Here's another thought. I'm not sure TTL flash is going to be that helpful if you like to shoot in manual. Why not look at some old vivitar automatic flashes. It will be attached to your camera anyway, so flash measured auto will work, as will manual. You can pick them up for buttons on e-bay, so buy a few and just change the flash when the battery runs low

MattMatic

Link Posted 20/09/2012 - 14:43
Some additional thoughts...

If you shoot high ISO, then continue to do so (maybe one notch down). A common mistake is to get a flash and try and shoot at ISO 100, hoping that the flash will somehow produce the energy of an H-bomb to light up the room

Keeping your ISO high will mean the flash isn't working so hard and your batteries will last much longer (i.e. not hearing the 'thwack' of the flash completely discharging each shot). That also helps a great deal with cycle times - if you can aim to discharge one quarter (or less) then you'll be able to rattle shots off more quickly.

I've had very, very good success with an AF-360 or AF-540 but set up this way: Manual exposure on the camera, fairly high ISO (e.g. ISO1600), and set for one or two stops darker than ambient; flash on P-TTL. That nails it every time.

If you're going to do bounce flash all the time, then a fully manual flash will do the job too! Just do a test shot or two to get everything set up and you're away... (which is the way I work for studio style photography like portraiture).

AFAIK, the Pentax flash guns are made in an OEM factory (they bear a canny resemblance to other makes of flash). The Metz I have has always been excellent, and the quality of light is more daylight balanced than the Pentax flashes. But the user interface on some of the guns can be a bit painful - especially if you're making lots of changes. It's all a bit horses-for-courses really...

Some of the bigger Metz guns have a secondary fill-in flash which is useful, and will have higher guide numbers and more power control. The cheaper Metz guns lack very fine grained power control, but the bigger units allow control down to less than one 256th! (Superb for very, very close macro flash)

Buy the best you can afford, and invest in some learning time for the situations you need to cover. (And there's my e-book on flash too )

This site: http://pttl.mattdm.org/ is also helpful (different Matt though )

Matt
http://www.mattmatic.co.uk
(For gallery, tips and links)
Last Edited by MattMatic on 20/09/2012 - 14:43

davey

Link Posted 20/09/2012 - 15:45
Cheers Russell, that's a good idea - I had a quick look and as you say there are loads of vivitar flashes out there, and switching between a couple is a good idea. I'll have a read up on the different models and add this solution to my list of possibilities, thanks.

Thanks for the info Matt, lots of common sense, wisdom and experience in there. The suggestion to set a little below ambient and use P-TTL sounds like a great place to start if I go for a fancy new flash. At the moment my referred modern flash is a Metz with the secondary flash. Oh, and I've bought your e-book - sounds like just what I need!

Cheers guys,

davey.
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